For the British Prime Minister, 2017 has been, without a doubt, full of setbacks and bad omens, and the events of the last few months only reinforce people’s assumptions about how close an unhappy end for the current administration is.
Sex scandals, increasing insecurity and fear of terrorist attacks, the resignations of high profile members of government, internal plotting and the constant criticism about her handling of negotiations with the European Union (EU), are just some of the obstacles facing the 61-year-old politician, who came to power in 2016.
In spite of her attempts to demonstrate her authority, May has not recovered from the blow she received in the most recent elections, where the Tories lost 12 seats and ended up with 318 seats in total, seven short of the number required for an absolute majority.
Her disapproval rating isn’t only reflected in Labour’s surge in recent polls, but also in the loss of support from some of her own party colleagues. At the start of October, the MP and former Chairman of the Conservative Party, Grant Shapps told local media outlets that he was in favour of a change in leadership of the party, and called for a leadership contest, a motion backed by 39 others MPs, he claimed.
For Shapps, replacing May is necessary given the current political climate, when the Conservatives are facing difficulties due to the loss of their majority in June and question marks surround their handling of the process of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The politician affirms that he can count of the support of at least two members of cabinet, and pointed out that the list of May’s detractors contains MPs both pro- and anti-Brexit MPs.
Although a number of senior figures denied the existence of such a conspiracy to oust May, the press recently confirmed that the plotting goes on and only eight more signatures are needed to reach the 48 necessary to put forward a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
After finding out about the plans against her, May maintained that she had the backing of her whole team and rejected the demands for her to resign. However, in recent months the Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has constantly challenged the Conservative leader, and even put forward his own plan for his country’s withdrawal from the EU.
On top of this, the Executive has been weakened by the resignation of two of its members inside one week.
On November 1, Michael Fallon, until then the Defence Minister, decided to leave his role after his involvement in a case of sexual abuse was revealed, and was replaced by Gavin Williamson hours later.
“A number of allegations have surfaced about MPs in recent days, including some about my previous conduct. Many of these have been false but I accept that in the past I have fallen below the high standards that we require of the armed forces”, Fallon stated in his resignation letter.
For his part, Williamson, 41 years old and without military experience, has taken up the role in a time when more cuts are needed to the military budget and shortly before a meeting of NATO chiefs to evaluate the command structure of the body.
As well as Fallon, a number of civil servants have been accused of sexual misconduct, among them the Secretary of State, Damian Green, the Secretary of State for International Trade, Mark Garnier, and the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb.
According to local media, the list of suspects could grow to several dozen, in face of which May promised to take the necessary measures and announced the reform of the grievance procedure that deals with complaints.
Shortly after, before the scandal had even left the front pages of the country’s – and the world’s – newspapers, May had to deal with another controversial issue that had grave consequences for her administration.
On November 8, the head of International Development, Priti Patel, was forced to resign, after it came to light that she had been involved in supposedly secret meetings with the Israeli authorities, among them the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, and the head of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Yuval Rotem.
Her place was taken by Penny Mordaunt, whose appointment was welcomed by Eurosceptics, as, in also being in favour of the UK’s exit from the EU, she maintained the balance between pro- and anti-Brexit MPs in the Cabinet. Although it would seem that the Prime Minister has managed to come up with a solution to every obstacle that she has come up against, several commentators agree that these patchwork solutions will not mask for long the damage inflicted upon the Conservative administration.
Recently, the newspaper The Times revealed that the EU was preparing itself for the probability of the Tory leader’s exit before 2018, whether it be because of a change of leadership within her party of because of a Labour victory, in the event of the nation going to the polls again.
The British leadership is weaker and weaker and this is making negotiations about Brexit more difficult, the source claimed, and noted that the EU is also analysing the possibility of the UK’s divorce from the EU taking place without a deal being reached, or the revocation of the separatist initiative.
After six rounds of negotiations, London and Brussels have still not agreed upon key issues such as the rights of citizens, the payment of the divorce bill, and the border with Northern Ireland.
As a way of showing her authority, May reaffirmed at the start of November that on March 29, 2019, at 23:00 local time, the United Kingdom will stop being a member of the community platform.
Via a message posted on social media, she assured that she would comply with the will of the majority, reflected in the 2016 referendum in which the campaign in favour of leaving the EU triumphed.
“May no one doubt our determination. Brexit is happening and the date will be written in black and white on the front cover of a historic piece of legislation”, she stated.
Likewise, she underlined the importance of the EU Withdrawal Bill, currently being debated in parliament, and warned that, although amendments to the bill will be accepted, its approval will not be stopped.
“We will not tolerate attempts to block the wishes of the British people by attempting to slow down or stop our departure from the European Union. As Prime Minister, I am committed to securing a good deal with Brussels”, she insisted, despite having initially been against this decision.
However, the legal expert John Olav Kerr, author of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which regulates the separation of a state from the bloc, stated that Brexit is reversible and that it can be cancelled at any time.
“At any stage we can change our minds, and if we do so then our European partners will be very happy. If we wanted a second referendum, there is nothing in the treaty or in the position of the 27 member states that would stop us from taking the time to hold one”, he told the BBC.
Furthermore, he claimed that the country’s leadership is trying to confuse the general public, and that a U-turn is possible.
In this context, commentators such as Laura Kuenssberg refer to the eventual ‘destruction’ of the Conservative government, the calling of fresh elections for next year, the naming of Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister, and the suspension or delaying of Brexit. “The rumours point towards drama, even towards a possible Armageddon, but no one knows what will happen, political stability might come back. However, it seems like everything is going wrong and this doesn’t feel like a Government in control of what’s going on”, she said. (PL)
(Translated by Matthew Rose – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos:Pixabay